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Soul Express Album of the Month - September 2007

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Samba Soul

US Victor Brooks CD, 2006
1) Catch The Fire 2) Lovin You Baby 3) Keep Lovin Me 4) Moonlight Mysteries 5) Believe It Or Not 6) Sunshine 7) Where Do We Go 8) Your Ways 9) Be My Friend 10) Never Can Say Goodbye 11) Janie's Song

If Brazil/Bossa Nova flavoured soul is your thing, Victor Brooks' CD Samba Soul (US Victor Brooks CD, 2006) is more than recommended. With real instrumentation by Brazilian musicians (drums, percussion, keyboards, acoustic guitar, trumpet, sax) it instantly creates a warm, mellow atmosphere, and Victor himself is a soul vocalist whose vocal style is reminiscent of Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and Maxwell.

Victor's family moved to Memphis, Tennesee when he was 13-year-old. His early influences came from gospel and jazz, but moving to Memphis of course introduced Victor to the Southern soul and blues music genre. Victor started to watch and learn from the likes of Al Green, Isaac Hayes, The Emotions, The Barkays etc. In the mid-80s Victor moved to LA, where he contributed to Brian McKnight's debut album as a songwriter.

Then Victor took a trip to Brazil, where he was introduced to a young Brazilian soul artist by the name of Ze Ricardo. Victor and Ze became instant brothers and they have been performing in Brazil and Portugal since 1997 to audiences ranging from 800 to 20,000 seats. Samba Soul is Victor's first solo project, and it's produced by Ze Ricardo. The title "Samba Soul" was taken from the press, when Victor's music was described as presenting "soulful type of samba", but the actual music is more Bossa Nova and Jazz inclined than any samba. Ze Ricardo is responsible for the arrangements and he also plays acoustic guitar on several tracks.

The album contains 11 tracks, all of which are quite tasty. Lovin' You Baby is the first track that grabbed my attention with its unique mixture of Brazilian elements and Maxwell-ish soul singing. The backdrop is a bouncy soul/funk instrumentation flavoured by Brazilian styled percussion and Ze Ricardo's Bossa Nova -based guitar playing. Jesse Sadock's horn arrangement (saxophone and trumpet) is delicious and Victor demonstrates his soulful vocal delivery and Marvin Gaye -type of hollering. Marvellous stuff.

Other highlights include the pulsating mid-tempo soul ballad Believe It or Not, the more Brazil-inclined, swaying soul ballad Sunshine, the stylish Bossa Nova ballad Where Do We Go (very similar to the style Brigette performed on her wonderful Expansion set), the relaxed mid-pacer Your Ways with its refined piano and saxophone playing and the trumpet-colored ballad Moonlight Mysteries. The only non-original tune is Never Can Say Goodbye, a classic soul song (recorded by Isaac Hayes, Jackson 5, Gloria Gaynor etc.) written by Clifton Davis, who was the person who introduced Victor to Ze Ricardo. Of course, the song is here set in a Bossa Nova rhythm, over which we can hear trumpet, saxophone and flute.

All in all, not a single weak moment on the whole album, and the CD certainly wins its way to my personal list of the albums of the year. (Rating: 8/10)
Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

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